Wanda Deglane is a psychology/family & human development student at Arizona State University whose poetry has been published or is forthcoming on Dodging the Rain, Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. Earlier this year, Wanda self-published her first book of poetry, Rainlily. Here, we find out more about Wanda’s journey into self-publishing and dig into the topic of ‘Instapoetry’, whether form and metre still matter, and the crucial role that online journals play in widening access to poetry in 2018.
Tell me about your journey into writing Rainlily: how did you first start writing poetry and what made you decide to self-publish your first book?
I started writing poetry the summer before my last year of high school as a form of catharsis. The months leading up to that summer were some of the hardest I’ve been through. After a suicide attempt, beginning to take antidepressants, being sexually assaulted, and finally ending an abusive relationship, I used poetry as a means to heal, as well as a way to make sense of what I was feeling and what I had experienced. At the time, my writing lacked any sort of quality, but it all contained the same thread of healing connecting each piece to one another, which gave birth to the idea of compiling my own book of poetry. And that is how Rainlily came to be – I spent the next two years writing and revising and putting together this little story of what I had gone through when I was 16-17, and how it affected me as I moved forward with my life.
Originally, I had every intention of going about the traditional route of publishing. I could definitely feel the stigma in the lit community that self-publishing was somehow inferior to publishing through a press. I thought to myself that I would have to be a bad poet or a “fake” poet to self-publish, or that it’d mean that nobody else wanted my work. I submitted to a couple presses and was fully committed to waiting it out, but while I did, I came to the realisation that this story was so deeply personal, and it had taken so much out of me to finally pour out, that I wanted this project to be solely my own and to be done the way I envisioned it. And of course, there’s always disadvantages to having to do it all yourself- but after coming out the other side, I can honestly say I don’t regret self-publishing for a second. I’m not sure if I’ll do the same for any subsequent books I write, but I wholeheartedly believe it was what was best for this book and I’m so thankful that I recognised that.
Who would you say are the biggest influences on your writing, and who are your favourite authors/poets?
My biggest influences would definitely have to be my family and everyone closest to me. Most of my writing tends to have something to do with my family, whether it’s me reminiscing over fond memories, or working through negative emotions about family members, or anything in between. As for my favourite poets, I have so many! I still feel so new to the poetry community and these past several months have introduced me to so many incredible pieces and talented poets. Just about every poet I come across completely blows me away and for that I am so grateful, because I feel I have so much left to learn from my contemporaries. But if I had to pick a couple of favourites, I’d say Topaz Winters, Ada Limon, Chen Chen, and Eloisa Amezcua.
How important do you think form and metre are to writing poetry in 2018?
As someone who hasn’t had even a lick of formal education when it comes to writing poetry, I am definitely not experienced in form and metre, and perhaps I’d have a different answer if I was! But I feel that it isn’t heavily important, especially in my own writing. I think that being able to write in specific forms and in meter are art forms that we as writers should not do away with or forget, but I also don’t think it is necessary in order to be able to write poetry. I have found poems that are extremely structured that I absolutely adore, but I’ve also come across poems that are more free flowing or experimental that are just as breathtaking. Whichever way a poet chooses to write, it is still poetry and still has just as much potential to be an amazing piece. Of course, I hope that as I continue to become more knowledgeable and improve my writing, I can dip my feet into writing in form and meter and come to appreciate it further.
Do you think the proliferation of online journals and/or ‘Instapoetry’ (which has obviously widened the accessibility for publication) is a positive thing?
To be honest, ‘Instapoetry’ is the first kind of poetry I was ever exposed to. I wasn’t the biggest fan of a lot of it, but even from the beginning I recognised that it was causing so many people of different ages and backgrounds to become interested in poetry, and that to me could never be a bad thing. Online journals are especially a blessing to me, I don’t think I would have been able to fall in love with poetry as deeply as I have had I only had access to writing in print. And that, I believe, is incredible, as it widens the doors for people of all sorts of economic backgrounds to be able to share their work and learn from one another.
What would you advise a young person who wants to publish their poetry and isn’t sure how to go about this?
So many things! Firstly, never give up! I am sure every poet has encountered rejection in some shape or form, and it can be so disheartening, especially at first. But I discovered that there are thousands of literary magazines out there and one of them was bound to like my writing. The key is to be persistent in your pursuit of this lovely craft: keep writing, keep polishing your pieces, keep submitting, and most importantly keep reading! Always be open to suggestions and different styles of writing/ ways of thinking- even if you don’t wind up using those suggestions at the moment, it can all be used to continue honing your writing as a whole. Something else I think is incredibly important is to not be afraid to make friends within the lit community. I’ve met poets from a variety of countries, cultures, and backgrounds, and the vast majority of them have been such kind and helpful people. Other writers are not “competition,” but instead can inspire you, help you write and edit your work, and even teach you a thing or two.
What are your aspirations for your writing in the future?
Finishing my first book only made me realise that I have so, so, SO much left to say. I have an infinite number of ideas for new projects and books that are just bouncing around my head all the time, and I’m so excited to see them come to life like Rainlily did! I have spent this past summer writing nonstop, so I now have a couple of finished chapbook manuscripts that I’d hopefully like to find homes for someday, whether that be through self-publishing or through some of the amazing small presses I’ve encountered. I want to keep writing as passionately as I am now for as long as I am able to. I want to be further inspired by the wonders, pains, and joys in my life, as well as of those around me. And I want to share my truth with others! There are so many things in my life I have forced myself to keep quiet about in the past, and I have found that shedding light on my own experiences often helps others to not feel so alone. Most importantly, I want to keep writing until I run out of things to say, which I think won’t be for a very, very long time.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yes! I’d like to say that I am so immensely grateful- to Porridge, for giving me this platform to share about this book that is so important to me, to all the editors of all the lit mags that believed in me enough to share my writing with the world, and to all the wonderful people who have received my poetry with such open hearts during the short time that I’ve been putting myself out there. It not only makes me so happy, but it also gives me the feeling that I could do this forever.
Images: Featured image by J A N U P R A S A D on Unsplash; author image courtesy of Wanda Deglane
Words: Georgia Tindale